James Warden, Guest Columnist
The Hopkins Raspberry Festival is known for its queens and princesses. But on that first celebration back in 1935, Hopkins had another strong woman leaving her mark — in this case by composing a song just for that special day.
Verna Kroon wrote the music for a tune called “When It’s Raspberry Time in Hopkins” that was performed at early festivals. The 33-year-old’s song was a musical ad for Hopkins enticing Depression-hit neighbors to come visit the community.
“When it’s raspberry time in Hopkins, come out on Raspberry Day,
You will get a fine reception in the good old Hopkins way.
You will have your fill of berries and cream, with pretty girls serving there
And rare enjoyment it would seem with music in the air.
When bands turn out in a big parade in uniforms so gay,
They play the best music made, oh how those bands can play.”
Newspapers covering the first festival described how a high school boys trio sang Kroon’s song (with words written by resident James Allen Anderson) as locals served dishes of “Hopkins raspberries, Hennepin County cream and Chaska sugar.”
Phonebooks at the time Kroon wrote the Raspberry song listed her occupation as a stenographer — likely at a local electric store or at Minneapolis Moline, where she spent many years as a secretary.
But she was known best for her music. Kroon’s obituary described her as a “well-known organist and pianist in Hopkins.” She wrote songs with names like “Bill’s Victory March” and “Ring, Christmas Bells,” according to copyright records from the 1930s and ’40s. She wrote an entire cantata for what was at the time called Mizpah Congregational Church.
Kroon got involved with Hopkins music early on. She played for Hopkins High School, and a Hopkins Historical Society photo shows her with a “Hopkins High School and Alumni Orchestra” in 1922.
She accompanied numerous violinists and singers from the area throughout her musical career. Kroon was also director of the Hopkins Concert Association, a member of the Hopkins City Band and a pianist for the Hopkins Lions. At one point, she played the organ for Mizpah, Hopkins United Methodist and Glen Lake Presbyterian.
But Kroon also saw the world beyond Hopkins to an extent many early 20th Century Americans did get to. Passenger lists show her arriving in New York City from Cherbourg, France, when she was just 26.
“When It’s Raspberry Time in Hopkins” remained memorable many years after that first festival. Later organizers wrote that “someone was always asking what had happened to it.” They were able to track down one surviving copy “through diligent research.” Thanks to them, we can still hear what those early festival goers heard.
“There’s a beautiful queen in Hopkins, picked out for Raspberry Day,
Who will smile so sweetly at you in a very winsome way.
You can buy full crates of berries to can, from farmers who gather there,
Delicious berries better than you ever get else where.
So bring your wife and children too, to Hopkins speed away.
A hearty welcome waits for you. You’ll spend a happy day.”
That final verse focuses on the raspberry queen and her winsome smile. But in Kroon, Hopkins had its own musical royalty who gave so much to the community during her 62 years here.